Free Markets, Free People

Van Jones


Green jobs? There’s just no market

If you don’t believe me, look at the California experience to this point.   If there’s any state in the union more amenable to and focused on providing green jobs, it has to be the Golden State.   Governor Jerry Brown pledged to create 500,000 of them by the end of the decade.

But as often the case when the central planners make their pledges, they are woefully ignorant of what the market wants.  And so rarely does what they envision ever come to fruition.  Green jobs in CA is a good example.

Remember Van Jones?  Well, when Jones left the Obama cabinet as his “Green Jobs Czar” he landed in California and has been what the NY Times calls an “Oakland activist” apparently pushing for the creation of green jobs.   And it’s not like California hasn’t tried.   It has simply failed.

For example:

A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.

So a “stimulus” program that spent over $93 million dollars to create 538 jobs.  Why so little in terms of takers?  Well it seems the market wasn’t interested.

The weatherization program was initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry. Even after that issue was resolved, the program never really caught on as homeowners balked at the upfront costs.

“Companies and public policy officials really overestimated how much consumers care about energy efficiency,” said Sheeraz Haji, chief executive of the Cleantech Group, a market research firm. “People care about their wallet and the comfort of their home, but it’s not a sexy thing.”

You don’t say … the government didn’t have a clue at what the market potential of their boondoggle actually had, so they ended up spending $172,862 for each job.  And you wonder where the money goes?

Example two:

Job training programs intended for the clean economy have also failed to generate big numbers. The Economic Development Department in California reports that $59 million in state, federal and private money dedicated to green jobs training and apprenticeship has led to only 719 job placements — the equivalent of an $82,000 subsidy for each one.

“The demand’s just not there to take this to scale,” said Fred Lucero, project manager atRichmond BUILD, which teaches students the basics of carpentry and electrical work in addition to specifically “green” trades like solar installation.

Richmond BUILD has found jobs for 159 of the 221 students who have entered its clean-energy program — but only 35 graduates are employed with solar and energy efficiency companies, with the balance doing more traditional building trades work. Mr. Lucero said he considered each placement a success because his primary mission was to steer residents of the city’s most violent neighborhoods  away from a life of crime.

You see you can fund all the job training centers in the world and run umpthy-thousands through it.  But if there is no market for the jobs, you end up spending a whole lot of money for nothing.   Again, ignorance of the market and its demands means expensive mistakes.  Of course Mr. Lucero thinks the program is a success – he got to spend free money, was employed and it didn’t cost him squat.  It cost you.

Example three:

At Asian Neighborhood Design, a 38-year old nonprofit in the South of Market neighborhood of San Francisco, training programs for green construction jobs have remained small because the number of available jobs is small. The group accepted just 16 of 200 applicants for the most recent 14-week cycle, making it harder to get into than the University of California. The group’s training director, Jamie Brewster, said he was able to find jobs for 10 trainees within two weeks of their completing the program.

Mr. Brewster said huge job losses in construction had made it nearly impossible to place large numbers of young people in the trades. Because green construction is a large component of the green economy, the moribund housing market and associated weakness in all types of building are clearly important factors in explaining the weak creation of green jobs.

Market timing is pretty important too, isn’t it?  If you introduce a product into a market in the middle of a market downturn, chances are slim you are going to be successful.  While it may all look good on paper and sound good in the conference room, the “buy” decision is still made in the market place, and in this case it is obvious that the market has no room for these workers.  Something which should have been, well, obvious.  In fact, there is precious little market for traditional construction jobs in a “moribund housing market”.   Yet there they are spending money we don’t have on job skills that are simply not in demand.

Finally there’s this bit of word salad to feast upon:

Advocates and entrepreneurs also blame Washington for the slow growth. Mr. Jones cited the failure of so-called cap and trade legislation, which would have cut carbon pollution and increased the cost of using fossil fuel, making alternative energy more competitive. Congressional Republicans have staunchly opposed cap-and-trade.

Mr. Haji of the Cleantech Group agrees. “Having a market mechanism that helps drive these new technologies would have made a significant difference,” he said. “Without that, the industry muddles along.”

You have to admire someone who tries to cloak central planning jargon in “market speak”.  Imposing a tax on thin air to drive, from above, a behavior government wants is not a “market mechanism”.  And beside, California passed it’s own version of this “market mechanism” with AB 32 in 2006.  How’s that working out?

This is how:

A SolFocus spokeswoman, Nancy Hartsoch, said the company was willing to pay a premium for the highly-skilled physicists, chemists and mechanical engineers who will work at the campus on Zanker Road, although the solar panels themselves will continue being made in China. Mayor Reed said he continued to hope that San Jose would attract manufacturing and assembly jobs, but Ms. Hartsoch said that was unlikely because “taxes and labor rates” were too high to merit investment in a factory in Northern California.

Irony … central planning fails in CA while jobs end up in increasingly capitalistic China.  Again, ignorance of the market causes disappointing results.  Somehow I feel this came as a surprise to Mayor Reed … after he’d spent whatever of your money he’d committed to this project.

~McQ

Twitter: @McQandO


Van Jones – An Afterword

The rise and fall of Van Jones has been a rather interesting situation to watch for a number of reasons.

One is the effect it has had on what David Sirotta calls “movement progressives”. Any one else would call them radical leftists. For those needing a definition, a “movement progressive” is one who comes from the grassroots of leftdom and has earned his or her way up through activism. That’s not to be confused with the “Team of Corporate Zombies”, per Sirota, with which Obama has surrounded himself. “Zombies” like Rahm Emanuel, Larry Summers and Tim Geithner.

So what was the value of Van Jones and his position? Per Sirota he was the only movement progressive in a real position to actually influence policy rather than being shuffled off into a “political/tactical job”. Sirota believes progressives have been badly dissed by the administration’s decision to throw Jones under the proverbial bus. And, of course, Sirota can’t imagine anything but racism being the motivator for those who went after Jones.

Jane Hamsher goes into it even further with a real “movement progressive” blast at the entire Obama administration. She’s of the opinion that the only groups under attack (and being compromised) right now by the White House are progressive groups. Likening them to a calf in a veal pen she writes:

And so the groups in the DC veal pen stay silent. They leadership gets gets bought off by cocktail parties at the White House while the interests of their members get sold out. How many have openly pushed back against the Administration on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell or DOMA? Well, not many. Most tried to satisfy their LGBT members by outsourcing activism to other organizations, or proving their bona fides by getting involved in the Prop 8 battle that is not directly toxic to the White House. It’s a chickensh*t sidestep that betrays their members in the interest of personal gain, which they justify with feeble self-serving palliatives about the importance of “maintaining a seat at the table.”

I think the phrase “not happy” is an understatement. And the Van Jones debacle just further aggravates the situation.

However not every voice from every liberal area is in synch with the “movement progressive” crowd. What I’m sure some of the grassroots liberals would consider to be the voice of the corporate media, papers like the San Francisco Chronicle still dutifully carry water for the administration and a little lecture for the Hamshers and Sirotas of the world:

For all those on the left who are expressing frustrations that the Obama administration did not choose to “fight” the forces who are determined to discredit Jones because of his past, we say: There was a time for that fight. It was before Jones assumed his high-level position in the administration.

Since Jones was never vetted publicly, that moment passed without note. And that, of course is the problem with such appointments. When finally vetted by public scrutiny, problems like Jones are bound to surface. Expect more.

The Chronicle also makes an interesting point about regional politics vs. national politics that seems to be lost on progressives:

Those of us who have observed Van Jones’ work over the years know him as a dedicated activist whose once polemic and confrontational style on matters such as police misconduct has been redirected and transformed into a more polished and inclusive advocacy of the environment. In the politics of the San Francisco Bay Area, a fiery radical past is almost a rite of passage.

On the national stage, it requires explanation, context and a touch of contrition – just as the past writings and statements of conservatives from other parts of the country seem so offensive and inexplicable here.

The fact that Jones’ activism, ideology and statements were obviously not acceptable on a national level should tell progressives something about why their ideology isn’t translating into what they expected when they signed on to the “hope and change” express.

The Wall Street Journal provides a little more insight for the progressives:

No President is responsible for all of the views of his appointees, but the rise and fall of Mr. Jones is one more warning that Mr. Obama can’t succeed on his current course of governing from the left. He is running into political trouble not because his own message is unclear, or because his opposition is better organized. Mr. Obama is falling in the polls because last year he didn’t tell the American people that the “change” they were asked to believe in included trillions of dollars in new spending, deferring to the most liberal Members of Congress, a government takeover of health care, and appointees with the views of Van Jones.

The “reality-based community” is having to face political reality for the first time and they don’t like it one bit.

Finally, any discussion of the Jones story has to include the shameful handling of it by much of the mainstream media. Or should I say the non-handling of it – for the most part, with obvious exceptions, they chose to ignore it. Consequently, when it broke, they were caught flatfooted and trying to catch up. They did their readers and viewers a great disservice and delivered yet another self-inflicted blow to their waning credibility.

~McQ


Is The Race Card Becoming Less Effective?

There’s a good bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth going on with the left since Van Jones resigned under pressure. They’re turning to some very interesting introspective analysis which isn’t at all complementary to the Obama administration.

But there’s one absolutely expected line of counter-attack that you could literally bet your house on emerging as expected. I give you the tried but not so true anymore “race card”:

“It struck me, why go after this guy? He is a minor player, he has no power, no budget, why take him? It’s because he looks like Obama and he has all those same attributes of being well-educated and he’s an electrifying speaker with an elite education,” said John Anner, a good friend of Jones and former chair of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, an organization Jones founded in Oakland. “It seems to me that he is symbolic of what the Obama administration is and could be and that’s inspiring for me, but for some people on the right, it’s terrifying and threatening.”

It couldn’t be because he’s unaccountable and, to many, unacceptable based on his prior words and deeds, could it? Must it be because he “looks like Obama?” The fact he is “well educated and an electrifying speaker with an elite education” doesn’t mean he isn’t a radical who people don’t want associated with their government.

In fact he’s a self-described communist. Few Americans are going to be comfortable with a communist sympathizer having access to the White House policy making apparatus that may one day have a direct effect on their country. Especially one unaccountable to the people. Is that discrimination – you bet. But not because he “looks like Obama”. Because his ideas and ideology are diametrically opposed to those America was founded upon.

My guess is, if anymore are found with similar backgrounds in the Obama administration, the same sort of pressure will be brought to bear to dump them as well – and race won’t at all be a factor.

Of course Anner isn’t the only one pursuing that ridiculous argument. Carl Pope, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, also tossed it out:

So was the decision by the White House to treat the initial attacks not as part of an assault on the president but, instead, to allow them to be viewed as being about Van Jones. What we underestimated was the power of the fact that both Jones and the Barack Obama are black. Yes, the hysteria was about politics — I don’t think Fox News really cares about Jones’s ethnicity — but it was enabled by race. Calling Bush a “crack-head” is seen by a large part of America as worse than calling him “addict-in-chief” because crack is not just a drug — it is a drug used largely by black people. It reminds those Americans who are still uncomfortable with Barack Obama that we have a black president.

Don’t you just love it when those who claim not to know what makes the right tick, then zero in on precisely what they’re sure made the right react is it did in this particular case?

In fact, this is simply an attempt at rationalization. Apparently, in Pope’s world, using derogatory descriptions of a president he disagrees with is fine. But when there are consequences for doing so, it’s obviously because those objecting are racist. The remarks are ignored for the race of the speaker. In fact, the side he seems so determined to make racist is objecting because the term used was derogatory regardless of the race of the speaker or the race of the target.

Pope needs to learn the meaning of the term “racialist” and how making everything about race causes it to lose the power it once had. When every set back and failing is because of race, soon the accusation looses all meaning. As each group accused of racism does a self-assessment and finds the accusation to be frivolous, the power the accusation might have the next time it is used is forever diminished.

Reasonable people understand it is entirely possible to disagree completely with a president and his agenda without once caring what race the president might be. But you have to be a grownup to admit that. Screaming racism is so much easier. And you don’t have to examine your own failings when you play the race card.

Ironically, the opposition should welcome its use, because each and every time the race card is played in situations in which it is obviously not a factor, it loses more and more of its effectiveness and what little power it has left.

~McQ


BlogTalk Radio – 8pm (EST) Tonight (Update)

Call in number: (718) 664-9614

Yes, friends, it is a call-in show, so do call in.

Subject(s): What will President Obama say Wednesday night. Van Jones – he goes after Glenn Beck with a boycott and it is Jones who ends up going home. Afghanistan – the popularity of the war is waning just as Obama is upping the forces there. What’s the prognosis?

UPDATE: Technical difficulties prevent this week. We’ll be back next week.

UPDATE [Dale]: Actually, we won’t be back next week.  Or the week after that.  I’ll be in Alaska.  Podcast will resume after  get back, in three weeks.

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